By Hamish Girvan
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
The Broncos PR for this opening fixture has been around huge billboards featuring Ravens Quarterback, Joe Flacco. It was Flacco who threw the winning down field pass in the playoffs last season that knocked the Broncos out in overtime. Talk about firing up a home crowd. The Super Bowl champions usually begin the new season with a home game in front of a national television audience, but due to a fixture clash with Major League Baseball the Ravens will have to start on the road. Denver are the bookies favourites for the Superbowl this season and this could be their best chance with key playmaker and Quarterback, Peyton Manning, not getting any younger. After their home defeat last season in the playoffs motivation will be high. The Ravens have lost some key personnel from their all conquering team last season and could struggle. Going back to back is difficult in this league. Expect revenge from the Broncos in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Chiefs finished with the worst record last season hence getting the honour of picking number one in the draft this year. They went with an Offensive tackle in Eric Fisher so time will tell. In fact he will go unnoticeable from a big play view point – it’s all about grunt work. New coach Andy Reid went to work quickly trading for 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith. Smith a former number 1 pick will have a chip on his shoulder after getting injured last season and his back up then taking over his place. The Jaguars don’t seem to be rated this season and are predicted to get next year’s number one pick. Star wide receiver Justin Blackmon misses the first four games of the season for substance abuse issues. Nothing is a gimmie in this league however the Sportsbook odds point to a Chiefs victory here
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
The Bengals have been under the microscope as their preseason is part of the Hard Knocks documentary series. They look settled and there has not been a lot of turnover player or coaching wise. Rookie Running Back Giovanni Bernard looks like he’s useful and Quarterback Andy Dalton should step up in his third season. Playoff expectations are high and in the last two seasons they have lost both games against the same opponent, the Houston Texans. Further advancement is their aim. The Chicago Bears surprisingly sacked head coach Lovie Smith at the end of last season. Unlucky not to make the playoffs he paid the price. The new coach, Marc Trestman, is unknown to most having come from the Canadian Football League. Known as an offensive guru he will try to build on that side of the Bears game as their defence has always been their strong point. The Bengals will want to start their season on the right foot and should take advantage of a Bears team in transition
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
An AFC East divisional match up in week one brings the Patriots to the always struggling Buffalo Bills. Tom Brady, the New England quarterback, will have to get his flow going with different targets this season with major changes on the offense. The Bills can be a challenge for their divisional opponents historically however they don’t start on a great foot with injuries meaning a possible start for their third string rookie quarterback, Jeff Tuel. First round pick E J Manuel is struggling with an injury so a game time decision looks likely. Regardless any rookie quarterback will struggle in an opening game against possibly the most consistent team in the NFL. The Patriots should have no issue here and comfortably take this one
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to New York with former Jets favourite, now in red, in Darelle Revis. The Buccaneers always seem to struggle and this is a make or break year for Quarterback Josh Freeman. Coach Schiano has high standards so will have Revis pumped up for his debut on his old home field. The Jets seem to lurch from one controversy to another and Coach Ryan will be hoping his does not have to start his third string quarterback with both Sanchez and rookie Smith battling injuries. Rumours abound that Ryan could be the first coach to be sacked mid-season so he will be hoping an opening win will ease the pressure. Tough to call – Jets home advantage though could be the difference
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
A mouth watering battle between two NFC East rivals. The Redskins won this division last season however lost their home playoff game to Seattle was marred by the injury to their star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3’s recovery in the off season has been lapped up by the media with analysis as to how he is coached, and his explosive running style which makes him a target. The Eagles although not expected to go all the way due to their major overhaul of both players and coaching staff will be exciting to watch. New head coach, Chip Kelly, comes out of the college system having coached Oregon in a style that racked up points aplenty. How that approach will work in the NFL is a different matter however he is going to try it by all accounts. Quarterback Michael Vick is the running type and should have no problems adapting. This could be an offensive master class – it’s who will concede the least points that will come out on top. The Eagles at home on a televised game should edge it. Well worth plenty of points though.